GRE Exam Prep
A study commissioned by the test preparation company Magoosh found that students hoping to ace the GRE can could spend upwards of $9,000 preparing for the exam if they take advantage of all the services available. Taking the GRE doesn’t have to be expensive, however. Learn about free and affordable GRE prep materials that won’t break the bank, and hear from a student who scored a 335 after purchasing only one test booklet.
Get to Know the GRE
What is it?
The Graduate Record Exam, or GRE, is a national standardized test used by thousands of colleges and universities throughout America to assess prospective graduate students. When should it be taken?
Some schools require GRE scores to be submitted with a student’s application, while others don’t require final scores until after degree seekers have begun their studies. Students must also consider whether they want to retake the examination. Because examinees must wait 21 days before retaking the GRE, those additional three weeks must be factored into any timeline.
Who is it for?
Individuals considering advanced degrees, including master’s and PhD programs, are typically required to take this exam. The GMAT has traditionally been the standardized exam for students considering advanced business studies, but the GRE is increasingly being used for these types of degree programs as well.
What does it measure?
The GRE measures a student’s preparedness for advanced study. The current version of the exam covers three main areas: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, and analytical writing. All questions are designed to ascertain whether students have the skills needed to succeed at the graduate level.
Why must it be taken?
In addition to examining a candidate’s fitness for a graduate degree program, the GRE can also be beneficial in terms of financial funding opportunities. Examinees with high GRE scores are more likely to receive scholarship, grant and assistantship funding to help offset the high costs of graduate school.
Where is it taken?
Educational Testing Service, the organization tasked with overseeing the GRE, offers thousands of testing centers throughout the country. After registering, examinees can search for their closest test center.
Affordable GRE Resources
Receiving a good score on the GRE can make the difference in whether or not a student is accepted to their top program choice, and many feel pressure to take advantage of top-tier test prep materials as a way of bettering their chances. Students who can’t afford to spend spend $150 per hour on private tutors or $3,000 for test prep materials aren’t out of luck: lots of affordable and effective resources exist to help them ace the GRE.
GRE Practice Tests
Practice exams can help students establish a baseline, identify subject areas that need the most attention, and measure how much their score has improved while studying. By using questions from previous exams, practice tests help students get a sense of format and expectations. Examinees often use practice exams to mimic testing conditions by adhering to time limits and scheduled breaks.
ETS POWERPREP Practice Tests
Provided by the company that administers the GRE, the practice exams offered via ETS give students the clearest sense of what to expect on testing day.
Kaplan GRE Practice Test
Kaplan’s free practice exam closely mimics questions on the actual GRE, but students who used this practice test also warn that questions may be somewhat harder than those on the actual test. A good option for examinees who want to challenge themselves.
Manhattan Prep Free Test
Although Manhattan Prep’s main offerings are paid services, it does offer a free, full-length practice exam. MH’s practice exam is frequently used as a diagnostic exam for students who want a baseline before beginning to study.
McGraw-Hill Practice Plus Tests
MH is a leader in GRE test preparation materials, but the organization provides a free practice test in addition to paid services. The scoring of this exam is considered to closely match the scoring of the real GRE.
Princeton Review Free GRE Practice Test
Unlike the Kaplan exam that’s considered tougher than the actual GRE, most students who have taken the Princeton Review test say that it’s easier. Students who want to ease into studying without getting discouraged may consider starting with this practice test.
GRE Prep Videos
Students who consider themselves visual learners have myriad resources at their disposal, ranging from professional videos made by GRE prep companies to fellow examinees sharing videos on their YouTube channels.
100 Days of GRE Math Videos
This YouTube channel features 100 daily videos covering mathematical concepts and is a great tool to use alongside a student planner.
9 Study Hacks to ACE the GRE
A former test-taker who scored well on the exam shares her best tips for acing all three sections.
Hacks to Ace the GRE in 2017
A student who achieved a 325 on the GRE shares her study methods, the books she used, and the time she took to properly study for the exam.
Khan Academy Instructional Math Videos
Dozens of videos covering the various types of math on the GRE are provided by KA via the Educational Testing Service website, all free of charge.
Learning Words through Etymology
Crack Verbal offers this simple tool to help students learn about the origins of words, many of which have similar roots.
Magoosh GRE Videos
Magoosh hosts more than 200 videos and has nearly 60,000 subscribers on their YouTube channel.
My GRE Experience
A student who took the test and excelled shares her day-of experience of traveling to the testing center and sitting for the GRE.
The Biggest Mistake GRE Studiers Make
Magoosh provides this video from Chris Lele, the resident GRE expert.
Tips for Mastering the GRE
Anne Curtis, a Master Trainer at The Princeton Review, overviews the GRE and offers insider advice for getting a top score.
Top 52 Words
This video by Perfect Scores highlights some of the most common and frequently missed words on the current version of the GRE.
GRE Tutoring, Classes & Study Groups
Solitary studying is effective for many students, yet others thrive on interaction with other examinees or opportunities to ask questions of qualified trainers. The problem with many tutoring services and prep classes, however, is that they cost a lot of money. Online classes typically start at $400, while the most expensive can cost more than $2,000. Students trying to stick to a budget need affordable options, and thankfully many exist.
GRE Prep Money-Saving Strategies & Tips
Studying for and taking the GRE can add up to thousands of dollars for students who engage tutors, buy new textbooks, and take advantage of the many add-on services available to examinees. The test costs over $200, and students who end up taking the test multiple times can spend hundreds of dollars on the exam alone. Frequently asked questions about saving money on the GRE are addressed below.
Are discounts available to active service members or veterans?
Yes. Under both the GI Bill and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), active service members and veterans can be reimbursed for registration fees, specialized test fees, and administrative fees. To be eligible for reimbursements, applicants must hold a current “Armed Forces of the United States” identification card, be taking the GRE for the first time, be applying to a graduate program that explicitly requires GRE scores, and apply for reimbursement within 90 days of the testing date. No funds are available for study materials, expedited test scores, or other optional fees associated with the exam.
Are there scholarships or help for paying for any of this?
Yes. Magoosh partnered with Crush Empire in late 2016 to offer an annual scholarship to students seeking financial support for the exam. The scholarship, worth $500, also provides exclusive and advanced access to Magoosh GRE prep materials, including countless video lessons, a handful of practice exams, more than a thousand practice questions, and many other helpful features. The deadline for this yearly scholarship is May 31.
Could you get an employer to pay?
Possibly. Employer tuition reimbursement programs are becoming increasingly more common and the IRS allows employers to deduct as much as $5,250 from annual taxation for students receiving these benefits. The majority of employees specify that funds must be used strictly for tuition, but then again it never hurts to ask. This is especially true for prospective students employed by smaller companies who plan to complete a degree relevant to the organization’s mission.
Does the testing service administering the GRE offer any discount?
Yes. Educational Testing Service, the GRE administrator, offers fee reduction programs to students who meet two different types of requirements. Prospective students with financial need who can prove that they have applied for or are receiving financial aid may be eligible, provided they can supply documentation. Additional rules based on if the student is still a dependent also apply when deciding whether or not they are eligible via financial need rules. If approved, students receive a 50 percent discount on the cost of taking the GRE.
A second type of discount is given to unemployed students who can prove that they are at least 18 years old, are American citizens, and have proof of receiving unemployment benefits within the previous 90 days. Students who pass these requirements are only required to pay half the regular cost of taking the GRE.
A Student Discusses Taking the GRE Affordably
Klint Kanopka took the GRE in August of 2016 and scored 165 on qualitative, 170 on quantitative, and 5.5 on writing. He achieved these grades by spending approximately $25 on a GRE book published by The Princeton Review. Kanopka will start a Ph.D. in Science Education at Stanford University this fall. Prior to taking the exam, Kanopka served as a physics teacher in the Philadelphia School District for eight years. In this role, he coached First FTC Robotics, forensics, and taught various levels of math courses.
How can examinees best leverage free/affordable resources without sacrificing a higher score?
The big trick with the GRE (and standardized testing in general) is the questions themselves aren’t extremely hard, but the pressure of the format is. As such, the most important thing anyone can do is take full-length timed practice tests under similar conditions. I started my prep about a month before I was scheduled to take the exam and the prep book I bought included two full length scored practice tests. My plan was to first go through the book, familiarize myself with the types of questions I’d be asked and then practice them in an untimed format. Once I was familiar with all the different types of questions and their instructions, I took the first practice exam.
In your opinion, what’s the best undervalued resource currently available?
The library. In addition to taking advantage of GRE study materials within its collection, I also took a practice exam in a Philadelphia Free Library cubicle to try to simulate the environment as best I could. I brought some earplugs to block out the sound.
What’s your best advice for students preparing to sit the exam?
After taking the first practice test, take a few days to review the types of questions that you did the worst on and then take a second practice test. Make sure you set aside some time every day to do GRE practice work. Schedule two practice exams before testing day, and take them seriously. Look for materials that offer the largest number of timed, full-length, computerized practice tests – these will make your preparation budget do the most work for you.